Balancing sustainability, taste, and cost to meet consumers’ expectations.

Sustainable, center of plate proteins are highly sought after, and consumers want the same ethically sourced options when eating out. By 2026, the United States organic food market is forecasted to increase by 57.3 percent over what it was in 2021. 

“People are paying more attention to the food on their plate and where it comes from. They’re making different choices about what they eat at home and in restaurants,” says Cordon Bleu trained Chef Chris Mattera, who heads up culinary innovation at North Country Smokehouse.

Restaurants are at the forefront of the better-for-you food movement. Their customers want more sustainable meat without compromising flavor. Aligning with the preferences of socially conscious diners means serving proteins that are free from antibiotics, added growth hormones and synthetic chemicals. Animal welfare is also important, with new legislation in effect from coast to coast under California Prop 12 and Massachusetts’s Q3 measures. “Foodservice professionals who preemptively align with the better-for-you food movement will fare better than those who don’t.” says Mattera. “Sustainably raised meat simply tastes better.” Environmental stress levels can impact the finished product’s taste. The animal’s diet, ability to roam, and air quality on the farms all play a part. As restaurants consider embracing these changes, they must balance their sustainably sourced offerings in a way that positively impacts their bottom line. 

North Country Smokehouse is a pioneer in providing clean-label smoked meats with more than 400 farms in its family-owned Agri network. The company takes pride in hand-crafting artisanal smoked bacon, sausage, ham, and deli meat with exceptional flavor, premium ingredients, respect for livestock and the land. All its meat is available in antibiotic-free, all-natural certified humane, and organic varieties.

Transitioning to better-for-you proteins can enhance a brand’s reputation but often requires an evaluation of the existing menu and its variable costs. Most suppliers operate off-market, so foodservice pricing fluctuates all the time. North Country Smokehouse, however, offers stable and competitive pricing due to its vertical integration with North America’s largest producer of certified humane and organic pork. The close relationship gives it a lower, more stable price than competitors. Chefs and restaurant operators can confidently plan their menus, knowing that costs will not fluctuate dramatically. “You can build your margins without worrying that prices will shoot through the roof on the next order,” says Mattera. 

North Country Smokehouse offers a seamless entry point for restaurants transitioning towards better meat and many restaurants start with antibiotic-free meat products. As customer demand grows and they see their dishes sell through, they gradually introduce certified humane and organic options. 

“What sets us apart is our commitment to doing things right every step of the way, and that’s not always easy to do,” says Mattera. 

To hop on the better-for-you meat movement, visit

By Olivia Schuster

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